Driving Inclusion With Digital Design, Technology and Workplace Accessibility at Northern Trust
On May 18, our organization, led by our employee led Disability Business Resource Council (DBRC), recognized Global Accessibility Day 2023.
What is Digital Accessibility?
Every user deserves a first-rate digital experience on the web. It is our belief that someone with a disability must be able to experience web-based services, content and other digital products with the same successful outcome as those without disabilities.
This awareness and commitment to inclusion is the reason we are recognizing Global Accessibility Awareness Day (gaad2023).
Recognizing the need for digital accessibility
This year, sponsored by the (DBRC), our global teams will be encouraged to use a range of accessibility tools to understand how disabilities impact someone’s ability to fully utilize digital tools and technologies. Our DBRC provides information and works to find resources for our employees when they have specific needs. They also host events that help educate and direct our employees to outside resources that may be helpful to them.
This year marks the 12th anniversary of GAAD which is designed to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion, and the more than one billion people globally with disabilities or impairments.
Digital Design System and Technology Applications
Through our Digital Design System and Digital Accessibility consulting, we’re ensuring that the authenticated experiences we deliver clients and partners are accessible for all users.
“The key to an inclusive experience is each team's commitment to building with accessibility in mind. Through digital enablers like our design system and accessibility consulting, we can empower teams to meet WGAC compliance requirements.” John Fisher – Head of Experience Design & Research
Christine Holmes, Program Manager for the Digital Accessibility Team and leader within the DBRC, is a part of the Design Enablement practice. She works in closely with the Design System Product team to ensure that it’s completely accessible and a source of best practices and consults with teams to address accessibility throughout the delivery cycle, from planning, to design, to development and delivery.
One of the many benefits of using our Digital Design System for authenticated client and partner experiences is its adherence to WCAG 2.2 AA accessibility compliance. For example, if a developer uses our ‘button’ component, it’s already accounted for color contrast, labels, and tagged for screen readers.
Microsoft has done a wonderful job addressing accessibility and are taking advantage of this as we are rolling out the Microsoft 365 suite of applications. These applications come with many tools that can be useful to our people with disabilities.
The Digital Accessibility Team is available to consults with teams across all of Northern Trust. Teams are responsible for preliminary testing but can engage to consult and understand issues that need remediation.
- Reviewing design to avoid any accessibility issues.
- Showing developers how to identify accessibility issues.
- Showing quality assurance specialists available tools and how to perform required manual tests.
- Reviewing encountered issues, consult on remediation and priority.
When we look at digital accessibility we focus on several areas:
- Ensuring Color Contrast is at certain level so that individuals with color blindness can interact fully on our applications.
- Testing the applications with keyboard interactions alone (not using a mouse at all), so that individuals who use assistive technology can work on our platforms.
- Testing our applications with screen readers to ensure that individuals with low vision or blindness can work on our applications.
Lori Roth who is a Director/Application Manager at Northern Trust says that when it comes to the actual technology applications, AA compliance is our target across internal and external channels, tools and technologies. Our technology application teams deliver digital solutions to all of Northern Trust. Accessibility is embedded into every delivery project with a strategy of “accessible from start”. It all starts with designers and product owners, writing the requirements with accessibility in mind. Then for developers to pull accessibility through the solution, and finally testing for accessibility to confirm compliance.
We embed accessibility into the procurement process from the beginning. So when we are looking at bringing in new tools, they must be compliant with our accessibility standards. To ensure teams understand all the compliance rules, Lori and her team recommends delivery teams review the rules regularly and leverage the resources available to ensure they are up to speed on the latest accessibility requirements and tools.
We also have automated tools to help the developers catch issues with accessibility compliance in testing – approximately 40% can be caught via automation, and the balance through manual testing for which we have established best practices.
Accessibility in our workplaces
In addition to our focus on digital accessibility, we also consider and plan for accessibility in the workplace. When we are building out new spaces, we practice Universal Design according to Sara Bonett. This ensures that spaces are available for all of our people to use with ease.
We also recognize that our employees spend many hours in the workplace and therefore we have considered the below as a corporate standard for all locations:
- Ergonomic Chairs
- Adjustable Monitor Arms
- Convenience power at desk-top
Our team has also implemented height adjustable workstations. This gives our employees the ability to adjust their workstation to their comfort. Height adjustability doesn’t just afford employees to sit or stand as they work – but it also allows them to do smaller adjustments for comfort as well. In many new renovations we review lighting specifications and the acoustic experience in our enclosed rooms to enhance the user's experience.
Recently we’ve been rolling out some very exciting video pods in some of our locations. Many manufacturers standard offering is a small enclosed space with a step-up entry. The workplace team did extensive research and worked with external partners to find the right manufacturer to introduce a video pod that allows for any user to enter. The pods specific for accessibility have doors that automatically open with a push button and employees can experience the enhanced video conference experience with a space. This research has helped define a standard for this in our corporate locations and as we embark on new projects we always make sure they reach these minimum requirements.
Another thing that we consider in all builds and currently in some of our global offices – such as London – is a wide variety of seating options. We provide a variety of furniture options – different heights – different chair types – in all of our amenity spaces that allow employees to find a space they are most comfortable. These spaces are always considerate that we are not all the same and there should be many ways employees can choose to work on the day to suit their needs.
Lastly – we work closely with our internal teams to offer personalized solutions for anyone who may need an accommodation in the office. Our workplace counterparts in EMEA do this in partners home office space as well in certain regions. We evaluate various options and continuously work to better understand the needs of employees and how to incorporate more generally.
At Northern Trust, while we’re taking the time on May 18th to recognize this day specifically, our teams focus on accessibility every day across digital design and experience including technology application procurement, development, testing and implementation and in our workplaces.
Interested in joining an organization that helps all our people find their greater?
Learn more here about careers at Northern Trust.